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- Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) was extremely disappointed to learn that BC Environment Minister George Heyman has declined to order an environmental assessment for the Bamberton Projects. Instead he has offered that the quarry will undergo an “enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process”. This is for a quarry which will double its output to almost 500,000 tons annually, and will continue for 30 years, with much of the crushed rock shipped to the USA.
- In making this decision, Minister Heyman has ignored the only comprehensive Saanich inlet environmental study done in the last 30 years. This study concluded, “major industrial development is incompatible with the Inlet’s special oceanographic characteristics”.
- In addition Minister Heyman has recommended a separate “cumulative effects analysis” within the Saanich Inlet to be carried out made by the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. Minister Heyman says such an analysis “could address the concerns raised by local residents and First Nations eff ectively, fairly and expeditiously”.
- While this “cumulative effects analysis” may sound like a substitute for an environmental assessment it is not. The analysis will not be completed in time to inform the permits that will shortly be issued for the quarry and the foreshore. At best it promises to be an interesting academic study but at the moment the output is vague. Despite our reservations SIPS hopes it could be a first step towards an environmental assessment of Saanich Inlet after a century of industrial activity. SIPS commits to participate unreservedly in the analysis.
- SIPS is particularly concerned with operations at the foreshore. None of these operations are declared eligible for environmental assessment. Activities include transport of contaminated soils (which MICO claims it has previously done and plan to do again), potential for ship breaking (which MICO have stated they do not plan to do), trans shipment of hydrocarbons using the two large oil storage tanks (last used in 1960), crushed rock, cement powder, and trans shipment of other potentially environmentally harmful products as MICO may choose. All these activities need to be carefully monitored by the government.
- Operation of the soil dump which is permitted by CVRD is also declared not eligible for environmental assessment despite the fact it will allow 400,000 tons of “soil” to be deposited on an incredibly steep slope just above the Inlet in just 5 years.
- Minister Heyman’s reliance on permit processes at EMLI (for the quarry) and Forests (for the foreshore) is unlikely to be provide sufficient protection for the Saanich Inlet. MLA Adam Olsen says such approaches in the past “have proven to be entirely inadequate for protecting the environment. Current permitting is inaccessible to the public, lacking expertise in indigenous engagement and focused primarily on assisting industry.” There is though some hope. Minister Heyman seems to acknowledge these deficiencies in making recommendations for enhanced permit procedures. Among these enhancements are greater transparency, public reporting of environmental monitoring and creation of a monitoring committee. SIPS commits to actively participate in these enhanced permitting procedures and we will do our best to use the permitting process to adequately protect Saanich Inlet.
- Minister Heyman in making this decision has ignored concerns for the future of Saanich Inlet voiced by hundreds of concerned citizens who engaged with the EAO in an attempt to influence his decision. He has turned his back on the local governments who, while not invited to participate by the EAO, did so anyway to try and conserve the environment in which they live and work. Finally he has turned his back on the treaty rights of two Saanich Peninsula First Nations, as expressed in their letters to the EAO.
Eric Falkenberg Poetz
Secretary / Treasurer